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Fleeting moments

November 10, 2020

Withdrawal before Christmas

Opinion

November 10, 2020

Whenever the peace talks to end the decades-old war in Afghanistan appear close to fruition, a terrorist act takes place to shatter any hope for a reliable ceasefire. Kabul University was targeted some days ago and 22 people lost their lives. It happened at a time when outgoing US President Donald Trump wants the US troops home by Christmas.

The US has already spent more than $2 trillion on the Afghan war and lost 3,784 troops – officially declared. But keeping in view the duration of the occupation, the number of troops killed could be much higher. There had been a policy to not disclose the death toll of the Afghan army and police because it discouraged young Afghans from joining the armed forces. Quite likely, the same policy applied to the foreign troops that were fighting a purposeless war.

About the aimless war, 'The Washington Post' published an article ‘At War With the Truth’ in December 2019. In the war related confidential documents that WP acquired under the freedom of information act, its correspondent quoted what Lt Gen Douglas Lute who served at the White House said: “What are we trying to do here [Afghanistan]? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.” The top brass and the politicians continued to deceive the gullible Americans that they were winning the Afghan war when the situation on ground was precisely the opposite.

Nonetheless, more than $2 trillion of taxpayers have been sunk in the war of attrition in Afghanistan. Another $1.4 trillion would be needed to meet the cost of medical expenses of thousands of wounded war veterans in the next forty years, according to the New York Times report. It’s surprising how some of the mainstream newspapers in the US compete with other news media to promote wars and these are the ones to advocate the end of wars years later.

Why – after so many rounds of talks between the top US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad, reps of Afghan government and the resisting forces – does peace in the war-torn country remain elusive? It’s because the terms of peace offered are not acceptable to the resisting forces that represent the majority of the Afghan people. These forces, call them Taliban or whatever you like, have actually won the war against the superpower. And they control almost eighty percent of the country's land mass. The US-installed government’s control is limited to Kabul only. And that government authority too is challenged from time to time as the recent attack on Kabul University proves it.

The US isn't leaving Afghanistan by choice; it's simply forced to do so. But instead of learning from the Russians who left behind their stooges in Kabul when withdrawing, the Americans too want to leave behind their proxies in power. The superpower would do well to realise what fate the Russian stooges met.

Even though Ashraf Ghani or Abdullah Abdullah may be deserving and suitable candidates for the slots they occupy, the mere fact that they have been US surrogates would be enough for the majority of Afghan people to reject them out of hand. That’s one reason why those enjoying power in Afghanistan don’t want the foreign troops to leave.

Afghan people follow their own culture of resistance and freedom even at the cost of their lives. They have never been subdued by foreign occupation forces, however powerful and lethally equipped. The US tested its daisy cutters in Afghanistan. These bombs exploded a few hundred meters above ground, exhausted oxygen from the air, and choked the whole population underneath to death. But such inhuman atrocities couldn’t crush the will of the Afghan people to resist and fight to win freedom. The British learnt it more than a century ago; the Russians at the end of the last century, and now the good Americans will leave without looking back.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]